A sharp pain pierces the factory worker's chest, spreading to his left arm. He starts panting. He begins to sweat and then collapses.

Heart attack. The number one killer, the American Heart Association calls it. Scenes like the one above take place thousands of times each day in the United States, but in the training film used by a new life-saving program in the District, the man lives. Quick-thinking fellow workers are able to save him, because they are trained in a technique called cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

The new program called "Heart Saver," sponsored jointly by the D.C. Fire Department and the heart association, is set to train 160,000 persons in CPR by 1982, according to heart association associate executive director Tony Englert. Thajt's about one-fifth of the total number of adults who either live or work in the District of Columbia, sponsors estimate.

Heart Saver is modeled largely after a well-publicized and reportedly effective program in Seattle, Wash.

Emergency medical technicians from the Fire Department's training division here teach the technique, which coordinated combination of mouth-to-mouth breathing and chest depressions.

Kneeling over the patient, the rescuer uses both hands to apply pressure to a small area of the chest to restore circulation. These chest depressions are the most difficult part of the technique, but are critical, since the malfunctioning heart of the victim does not pump blood through the system properly.

"As long as people can compress the chest one-and-a-half to two inches, they can do the job," said Battalion Chief Joseph R. Granados of the training division. "We have found some kids who can do it quite well!"

Englert said there are other CPR courses in the metropolitan area, but only the Heart Saver program is attempting to educate a large-scale audience. The single-session, four-hour coursje are free, and are given at business, organizations and firehouses.

"We're extremely flexible," Granados said. "We'll go anywhere at any time."

The fire department technicians show up at the courses with a 45-minute lecture, a half hour film, and two or manikins of roughly human proportions.

One course was held recently at the officer of Peter S. Ridley, the D.C. recorder of deeds, who has undergone two CPR courses and is himself a first-aid instructor. Ridley and a dozen employees listened attentively as the instructor, Sgt. Ray Alfred, explained the need for quick action when someone has a heart attack.

"You have to act quickly," said Alfred, one of 28 instructors teaching the courses. "After four to six minutes, brain damage may start to occur."

A film, narrated by actor Raymond Massey, reinforced Alfred's lecture and prepared the class for the most serious part - practice on the mainkins. The sergeant wheeled out one of the two truncated dummies, sporting a fire-red T-shirt with its name, "MANI," emblozoned across the front. Unlike the model in the film, the manikin did not have legs or dilating pupils but were attached to sensitive electronic equipment to monitor whether the CPR student administered chest pressure and mouth-to-mouth breathing correctly.

"Are you okay, are you okay?" asked the first candidate, documents examiner Melvin Taliaferro, 25, as he shook the dummy the way the instructor showed him. After establishing he was indeed "unconscious," Taliaferro began to apply CPR.

"The red light on the electronic equipment keeps coming on," he said, indicating he was not applying the method correctly.

"Try moving your hands down about an inch, and press harder," Alfred advised. The technique has to be applied properly, or injuries to the rib cage or liver could result, which is why the equipment is so sensitive, he said.

While Alfred worked with half the group, Ridley took the other manikin to another office to get the rest started.

"That does require a lot of effort," his secretary, Antoinette M. Brozoski, said.

Barbara Matthews, a superior in the cashier's office, stood back and watched as two or three fellow employees tried their newly acquired skills on Mani.

"I'm trying to be the last one," Matthews said. "I know if I were in the situation, I'd probably panic, but I still want to know how to do it."

Heart association officials hope that courses like the Heart Saver series will eliminate that fear of panic, which is why the board of directors approved an initial appropriation of $10,000 to get the program started.

The cost of classes comes to about $9.80 per person, the heart association's Englert estimated. Organizers said they hope corporate and individual donations will finance much of the five-year plan. Already, the Fire Department union has contributed $500, Englert said.

Heart Saver started in mid-February. According to officials in charge of the program, about 130 persons were trained in CPR the first week, 250 in the first two. Eventually, Englert said, the goal is to train 750 a week.

Individuals and groups wishing to schedule the Heart Saver course should contact Mercedes Murphy at the Heart Association, 296-4697.